lundi 28 septembre 2009

the cure for a broken heart: : vertige from Les Enfants Gaté

Oh it used to be so easy when we at were college. your best friend called to your digs in tears to tell you that she had just broken up with the love of her life who she had spotted for the first time a week before in the Boole library. The answer was simple : a whole packet or two of chocolate hobnobs dipped a mug or two of milky coffee later and what's his name had already been forgotten....

now we are older, wiser and we'd like to think a little bit more sophisticated and its all a lot more complicated or is it? now you get to experience your friend's break up almost in real-time simultaneously via facebook, twitter, email, and sms but this still doesn't give you enough time to get to WH Smiths on rue Rivoli to stock up on the hobnobs.

luckily we are in Paris and thankfully I work in the 17th close to "les enfants gatees" a delightful patisserie where there are so many sweet creations to chose from, that I promise all your woes will be left at the door as you empty your mind of all thoughts except cake!

the perfect cake to cure a broken heart: it was a hard choice to make but in the end I went for a "tarte au chocolat" and a "vertige" not as easy to dunk in milky coffee but the "vertige" fit the bill as the grown up sophisticate's answer to hob nobs. Mouthfuls of chocolate, dark luxurious chocolate (they use Valronha), chocolate mousse and was it creme carame beurre salé all perched on a chocolatey biscuity base...heaven

and while it may take girlfriend sometime to get over her ex, the "vertige" definitely helped and left a smile on her face. but that should be no surprise everyone knows that chocolate is the next best thing to......

dimanche 27 septembre 2009

a meal to phone home about - fairy cakes and boudin normande

This morning, Sunday morning, I woke up feeling home sick. Why does this still happen 16 years after leaving Ireland? I think it's partly down to missing Sunday family lunch. When I am feeling like this, there is only one cure: food, but not any food, food that reminds me of home, of my childhood, of magic moments with brothers and sisters, although at the time I am not sure there was anything magical about pulling each other's hair out!

I decided that I would make some fairy cakes, or cup cakes as they are more fashionably known these days. I tried the recipe in Rachel Allen's book, and took some shortcuts - did she really believe anyone was actually going to beat the eggs for a full ten minutes? Maybe I should have done though because the mixture never did quite thicken up. The result? I have no idea, I was just content to lick the bowl clean afterwards and everyone knows that there is nothing quite as good as cleaning a bowl with a mixture of butter, sugar and eggs. The fairy cakes? They headed out the door in a backpack after lunch for post hike snack, leaving me to clean the kitchen.

My favourite dinner when I was a kid and still is, bacon,cabbage and floury potatoes with lots of butter and white sauce. Richard Corrigan is also a bacon fan and a fan of pig in general. I had been browsing through his book before dozing off during the week and had pig on the brain. French people have this misconception that the Irish eat a cooked breakfast every morning, I have a hard time convincing them it is just a weekend thing, do the skinny women on the metro eat croissants every morning with their cigarettes and coffee, I think not. What is true though is that there is nothing better than a bit of black pudding on a Sunday.

In Ireland my choice of black pudding was limited to Shaws or Clonakilty, in France there are as many types of black pudding as butchers. I headed off to Gilles Verot in the 15th as the owner of the wine shop told me that this was one of the best places in Paris to get 'boudin'. I decided to cook it normande style, that is served with apples cooked in butter.

For two people I cut up four medium sweet eating apples and put them in a pan with some butter and left to cook on a low heat while stiring occasionally.

While the apples were cooking I peeled some potatoes cubed and boiled them. I like my potatoes the Irish way, just lightly mashed with a bit of butter and maybe a drop of milk and some salt. The French half of the couple, likes his, of course, the French way. Puree maison, consists of as much butter and cream as pototoes and means you have to go through the effort of putting it through a "moulin", apparently real French chefs put it through the moulin twice, but I am neither French nor a chef, it went through once!

To cook the pudding I melted some butter in a pan and fried the pudding on each side for a few minutes before adding the apples. I fried the lot for about 5 minutes.

To serve I pilled some mashed potatoes or puree maison on the middle of a large plate sat a piece of pudding on top and spooned over the apple.

It was the first time I had experienced a complete wall of silence from the other side of the table, he was savouring every mouthful. While I was being nostalgic about "home" with every mouthful of mash and pudding he was reminiscing about his own childhood in Limoges. This was good. This was comfort food at its best.

After dinner I phoned home to tell my mam that the next time she cooks black pudding she should think about frying some apples, she told me what she was making for lunch. I didn't feel homesick anymore.

jeudi 24 septembre 2009

Jadis: a gem of a restaurant in the 15th arondissment of Paris

There are some very good restaurants in the 15th two of my favorites are Le Troquet & Le Casier a Vin (especially for the iberique ham and cheeses) but I am always on the look out for something new, preferably one that I can easily crawl home from.

I had read several excellent reviews of a French restaurant near Bocicaut that I made a mental note to try but when the next occasion came up for eating out, I couldn't remember the name. I had sworn that it was "Jade" but a google search came up with no french restaurant of that name in Paris never mind the 15th.

Fast forward several months and I am apartment hunting in the 15th, and on a second visit to
one apartment, I insisted on quickly checking out the local commerce & eateries and low and behold I come across not Jade, but Jadis on rue Theodore Deck. I wasted no time in getting the number into my phone.

Fortunately I did not have to wait long for an excuse to try it out, I booked a table for 3 the following Tueday, for a girly night out with a friend from the UK.

It was an excellent meal, the company and wine obviously helped but the food was damn good with the all important rapport qualite-prix that in these economic times no one can blame the french for obsessing about. The dinner menu was at €28 for 2 courses or €32 for three.

Normally I am a two course girl (starter/main) but have to say when I saw the riz au lait on the dessert my mind was made up - I was going the whole way. Unfortunately seeing the dessert menu before ordering the starter and main may have swayed my choice of main course, the starter of chilled courgette soup with ricotta and herb quenelle - required no apologies but my healthy choice of main (blanc de seiche grilled to perfection and served with provencal vegetables) would not normally have been my first choice.

The worst moment of the evening for me was when I saw one of my dining companions being served up my first choice of main, if I wasn't worried about gaining weight and planning on ordering the riz au lait for dessert, which was rabbit with a corn cream sauce served with polenta on the side. Honestly a bunny never looked or tasted this good! It took all my will power to stop staring & salivating at Nicole's plate and let me tell you there was not a crumb left on it.

The riz au lait was almost worth forgoing the rabbit for (the riz au lait at L'Ami Jean slightly had the upperhand) and was served with a red berry fruit coulis. The fruit coulis made the dessert almost feel saintly and I felt terribly cheated out of the main course, at least until the bill arrived. At just over €40 each for 3 including the wine it is impossible to leave Jadis feeling any other way than filled with utter contentment.

Those of you looking for good restaurants on your doorstep should consider upping and moving sticks to Boucicaut!

mercredi 16 septembre 2009

chocolate brownies: going once, going twice, gone....and so is all of the ice cream!

while I am writing this I cannot even guarantee that there will be an accompanying photograph of these chocolate brownies, honestly they never seem to even get a chance to cool before they are all gone - because this is possibly the most deliciously chocolately brownie recipe ever!!!

okay, the brownie purists out there among you may not agree with me, it is true that this version is high on chocolate and low on sugar so the top doesn't have that crunchy effect that adding more sugar would achieve, but for the chocolate fans among you this is the business!!


300g of good quality dark chocolate
200g brown sugar
250g butter plus a little bit more to grease the tin
3 medium free range eggs plus an extra yolk
70g good quality cocoa powder
60g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
small roasting tin/brownie tin lined with greaseproof paper
pre heat oven to 180°C

1. break the chocolate into smaller pieces and melt 225g it in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water, reserve the rest of the chocolate
2. while the chocolate is melting cream together the butter & sugar
3 lightly beat eggs plus extra yolk in small bowl
4. add eggs slowly to the butter and sugar mixture(while mixing)
5. sieve together the cocoa powder, baking powder and flour
6. the fold into the mixture
7. pour mixture into prepared tin and put in oven
8. brownies are ready after approx 30 mins - test with a scewer in the centre, brownies are ready when comes out clean
9. leave to cool in tin (if you can keep greedy hands off long enough!)
10. serve with a good vanilla ice cream

If you are lucky enough to have some leftover they last well for a few days in an air tight box and are great heated up for a midweek treat!

mardi 7 juillet 2009

The Queet of Tarts, the best apple tart recipe ever!

When girlfriends tell you that you are looking really well and healthy its really a euphemism for "I am so glad to see that you have put on weight" and I have been hearing a lot of that lately and blame it on too many business trips to London!

Before I even board the Eurostar in Paris I am thinking about one thing only, what cake to order with my milky tea in Peyton & Byrne in St. Pancreas station, will it be the almond and pear tart, the luxury carrot cake (which gives my mams a run for its money), the coffee & walnut cake or a deliciously decorated cupcake? This is not the place to go if you are dieting girls!

My french beau could not understand what all the fuss was about before I allowed him to share in my Eurostar ritual, surely everyone knows that the french have the best patisseries in the world. Why would you go all the way to london to eat cake!

This was a sentiment recently echoed by my brother's visit to Paris, as he began to eat his way through a fair few of the cakes Paris has on offer, turning down my fresh fruit salad in favor of an opera cake, on the basis that he can eat fruit salad any day at home!

However on the first taste of the pear and almond tart, the french beau was converted to english baking and I have heard him say to friends, when he thinks I am out of earshot, that the english make really good cakes! Now when I go on a business trip to London I am obliged to take sample of the deliciousness on offer at Peyton & Byrne across the channel with me. But with the economic crisis the business trips have dried up - but my beau's appetite for all things sweet has not!

Several attempts to recreate the tarts from Peyton and Byrne have been a little disappointing until now...this recipe is modified from Richard Corrigan's toffee apple & pecan tart in "The clatter of forks and spoons"

You will need one sweet tart base ( 25 cm) which you should bake blind in a generously buttered lose bottom tart case and egg wash immediately when taken out of oven to prevent the base from going soggy.

Filling : 4 tablespoons of "beurre carmel salé" 4 sharp flavored eating apples a little caster sugar
almond creme
: 100g butter 100g caster sugar 2 eggs 100g almonds 25g plain flour

crumble 125g butter 50g plain flour 175g of demerara sugar 100g ground almonds (of grilled ground almonds if you can find them) & a handful of pecan nuts
While the base is baking make the almond creme: cream together the butter and sugar until pale. Mix in the eggs a little at a time. Then mix in the flour and ground almonds. Leave aside Crumble: Put butter in a bowl and rub in the butter and then mix in the other ingredients. Leave aside. Filling: peel, core and quarter the apples and put them in saucepan sprinkle over some caster sugar and cook over high heat ,when they begin to caramelise add 4 table spoons of beurre caramel salé and turn off heat. To assemble tart: spread a layer of almond creme on the pastry base, followed by layer of the apple filling and topped with the crumble mixture. Bake in oven preheated to 180° for 30 minutes keeping an eye on it from time to time to ensure that the crumble does not burn. Serve with a lag dollop of creme fraiche or custard.

lundi 29 juin 2009

Macca's meat free Monday - a chicken free chicken salad

I do like my steak - just turned in the pan so that when you slide the knife through it, it is likely to moo at you! And this is from someone who was a strict veggie for many years and even a spent some time being vegan.

There is no question of me going all out veggie again but while I love my meat it's not something I eat every day or even every month. It's for those moments when nothing else will satisfy but a bacon and avocado buttie or a nice piece of rare steak with chunky chips on the side.

While I can understand the farmer's being upset with Paul McCartney's campaign for one meat free day per week, from a green perspective I really think this makes sense. And aside from the environmental aspect, you are giving your body a break, as vegetables are easier on the digestive system.

This is my contribution to Macca's campaign - a chicken free chicken salad that is quick to make and is fully of heathy detoxifying ingredients. To make it easier to digest some of the vegtables are steamed and the tomatoes and cucumber are both peeled and deseeded.

This recipe serves 2


125g plain tofu
3 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tomatoes
1/2 red pepper
6 red radishes
1 large carrot
1 small avocado
1/4 cucumber
handful of cashew nuts to garnish
hand full of mixed sprouted seeds to garnish


But tofu in bowl and add the tamari sauce, then add water until the tofu is covered by the liquid.

Leave for at least 20 mins (sometimes I do this the night before and keep in fridge until I need it)

Pre-heat oven to 180°c. Using a pastry brush, brush some sesame oil on both sides of the tofu and place on a piece of baking paper in an oven dish, place in oven for approx 20 mins (or until brown) and turn half way through. Once done removed from oven and leave to cool.

Wash carrot & pepper and cut into matchsticks, then steam either in an electric steamer or a bamboo basket over a saucepan of water for for 10 mins. Once cooked add quickly to some iced water and allow to cool.

While the carrots and pepper are steaming, peel the cucumber then half and quarter it and de-seed, chop into small cubes.

Wash and top and tail radishes and slice finely.

Place tomatoes in a bowl of boiling water for two minutes , the remove from water and remove skin. De-seed the tomatoes and chop.

Chop avocado into bite size pieces

Put all ingredients except for the tofu in a salad bowl and mix well. Shred the tofu into irregular pieces and scatter over top of salad , and garnish with cashew nuts and sprouted seeds.

You can you favorite salad dressing, I used the same sweet chili dipping sauce that I norally serve with my fish cakes as a salad dressing. This goes particularly well with this salad.

lundi 22 juin 2009

the end of the line for sushi- one addict's moral dilemma

A mixed sushi sashimi platter would without a doubt feature on my last meal list and is one of my guilty pleasures but with the concern around dwindling fish stocks I am begining to wonder if we can have our sushi and eat it?

Nobu in London may be hitting the headlines for not taking endangered bluefin tuna off the menu but in London, this dilemma does not have to exist, there is an alternative. Planet conscious Londoners can pop into sustainable sushi chain Moshi Moshi where sushi lovers can have all the pleasure without the guilt!

For those of us living this side of the channel, it is possible though with a little effort to enjoy guilt free sushi. It means only ordering sushi that comes from sustainable fish stocks. You will find a guide to what to order in your favorite sushi restaurant at the Blue Ocean Institute . For information on what fish is sustainable and when to eat it, take a look at

The problem is that sometimes even when fish from sustainable stocks is in season it can be expensive - the following recipe uses organic farmed atlantic salmon and easily serves six for a light dinner with an asian style salad. There is enough salmon to give these fish cakes a touch of luxury but not enough to break the bank. A good dish to serve for a Sunday brunch!

Guilt Free Spicy Salmon Fish Cakes with a Polenta Crust & chilli dipping sauce

You will need:
300g organic atlantic salmon (cooked - I normally steam for 10 minutes - and left to cool) 225g mashed potato 1/2 large finely onion chopped 25g buter 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander 1 red chili deseeded and finely chopped 1 large organic egg 2 tablespoons for fish sauce salt & freshly ground pepper to taste polenta sesame/olive oil to fry Flake the salmon into a bowl and add the mash potato and coriander Melt butter in saucepan and add onion and chili, sweat over a low heat until onions are soft then add to the bowl Add egg, fish sauce to bowl and season well with salt and pepper Mix well Form into 6 large or 12 small fish cakes Pour some polenta into a bowl and cover each fish cake in polenta The fish cakes can then be chilled in the fridge until needed To cook heat oil in pan on a medium heat and cook fish cakes until golden brown on each side and warmed through.

While you can use a ready made sweet chili sauce I served this with a sweet chilli dipping based on a Nigel Slatter recipe in The Observer on 31/05/2009

1 large hot chillies chopped finely but not deseeded (the recipe called for 2 but the french in my experience can not handle hot food!)
3 tbsps fish sauce
6 tbsps water
3 tpsps rice vinegar
6 tbsps rice syrup (or caster sugar)
a thumb size ginger - (I crushed mine in the garlic press)
juice of 2 limes
2 tps soy sauce

Put water, fish sauce, rice syrup and rice vinegar into a saucepan and bring to the boil, then add ginger and boil until mixture starts to thicken slightly, let cool, then add soy sauce, lime juice and chilli.

However if you don't want to make the dipping sauce these are almost as equally good served with shop bought with a sweet chilli sauce. I serve these with a light asia style salad

You will have to wait until the next time I cook these to see some photos, they were all gobbled up by the time I got my camera out!

samedi 20 juin 2009

a gal can have too much of a good thing!

and here I am talking about carrots. Yes those of you who argue that a vegetable box can mean that you eat the same veggies for weeks on end may have a point...I have had; steamed carrots, carrot, sesame & chick pea salad, carrot batons with houmous, vegetable flan with carrots and courgette and well you get the picture I am all carroted out!!

So yesterday evening when the vegetable box arrived and there was more carrots I almost couldn't face taking them out of the box and then it hit me, we had friends coming for brunch on Sunday and I had carrots and I was inspired then and there to make my mam's legendary carrot cake!! I don't know where she originally got the recipe but I have it scribbled down on the inside cover of the The Naked Chef cookbook.

By the way the type of carrots you use make a real difference to the cake, I used the ones from my vegetable box which were fresh and sweet , not like some of the bland carrots you sometimes pick up in the super market.

My mam's legendary carrot cake

Wet stuff

1 carton of hazelnut yoghurt (150g)
6oz sunflower oil
4 eggs (free range)
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Dry stuff
9 oz wheaten flour
9 oz brown sugar
3 oz coconut flakes
1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
11 oz carott grated
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg

(I normally reduce the sugar to 6oz and add 3oz golden raisins)

Couldn't be simplier, you beat the wet stuff together then add it to the dry stuff and stir it up, it will be quite sloppy but that's ok trust me, then you pour this all ino a silicon loaf "tin" (which I normally oil lightly first) then stick it all in preheated oven (150 °c) for about 1 1/2 hours (test with a skewer - the cake is done when it comes out clean) in my oven it was done in one hour. Let cool on a wire rack.

You can choose to "top" the cake or not, for those of you not going for the whole hog option, it is quite nice served with some greek yoghurt or creme fraiche (with some orange juice added) for those of you not concerned with your waist bands tough luck - you will have to find a good frosting recipe yourself!

While the cake was in the oven I was browsing the internet and came across a recipe for a mango cake from joy the baker (, no I know mangos don't grow in France and I really do try and make an effort to buylocally bu honestly I was really only trying the recipe out from my brother living in Pakistan who has more mangos than he knows what to do with....anyway highly recommend this receipe and can easily be made into muffins perfect for a Sunday brunch!

mercredi 17 juin 2009

which came first the chicken or the egg: a recipe for Okayodon

for me the chicken was definitely first, or should I say one of the last things left in my fridge midweek and I was starving, in need of a comfort meal (and quick!) to get me through the last two days at work until the weekend. And what could be more comforting than this japanese dish, which name means "mother and child". This dish will without doubt see me and my beau make it through to the weekend!

Some recipes use chicken breast but I think that chicken thighs (skinned) especially organic are much tasty and real comfort food, also some recipes use sugar, but not being a big fan of sweet things I used rice syrup.

Recipe for Okayodon (serves 2 grands mangeurs)

70 ml dashi (pre-made)
50 ml mirrin
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 tablespon rice syrup (or caster sugar)
2 organic chicken thighs (skinned and bonned & chopped)
3 medium organic eggs (or 2 large ones) beaten
1/2 onion peeled and sliced (half moons)
2 spring onions sliced
4 Shitake mushrooms (optional)

to garnish:
1 sheet of nori shredded
shanso pepper

to serve: steamed rice or sushi rice

1. pour dashi into medium saucepan and heat until almost boiling turn down heat
2. add the soy sauce, mirrin, rice syrup and stir
3. add chicken, spring onions & onion and gently bring to the boil, boil for several minutes
4.slowly add beaten eggs, turn down heat and cover saucepan, allow cook for a further 3 mins

5. to serve put rice in either one large bowl and spoon mixture on top and garnish with nori strips and some shanso pepper or divide rice and okayadon mixture between two smaller bowls and enjoy!

lundi 15 juin 2009

an octupus & the best veggie boxes in Paris

Friday used to be sushi nights in our house but not anymore, there is something almost more exciting than discovering fresh monkfish liver on the sashimi menu to tickle my taste buds & my imagination, the weekly vegetable box arrives just in time for dinner.

After a few false starts I finally hit on the right company with a choice of farmers and boxes, its good value for money. You can even order a customised box and include fruit.

In this week’s box there was carrots and radishes (both with tops intact!), a large Batavia, cucumber, courgettes, mushrooms, baby turnips & fennel, everything freshly picked that morning.

That morning as I passed the fish shop in my street an octopus was crying out for a loving home, begging to be bathed in some limejuice, garlic and thyme and thrown onto a griddle until he curled up with contentment and his juices mopped up with some fresh bread. I would have to make sure that the salad was worthy to share the same plate!

Delicious and at 3.90 euro for an octopus, which was ample for two, who can say eating fish is too expensive!

No more sushi Friday’s for me? Sushi night has simply moved to Thursdays and if you come back next week, I might just tell you where to find the best sushi and sashimi in Paris!